Women entrepreneurs have amazing impact on the economy

National Bank of Arizona has long been a leader in supporting, mentoring, guiding and promoting women business owners. So it’s no surprise that NB|AZ has been a partner of Empowered PhXX, a community collaboration focused on unlocking the enormous economic potential of Arizona’s women business owners.

NB|AZ also is a force behind a new event focused on women entrepreneurs: four weeks in the fall dedicated to women entrepreneurs’ ability to make money, spend it wisely and secure it in the form of investment dollars or loans.

Money Month powered by National Bank of Arizona was held in September 2017. The centerpiece of that inaugural event was an NB|AZ-funded survey of women business owners, conducted to learn about the challenges and expectations connected to operating a company.

Last year’s Money Month was so successful that plans already are underway for the second annual event this year, called Money Month 2.0. The chair of the 2018 event is Stephanie Sims, founder of Scottsdale-based Finance-Ability, an Empowered PhXX partner that provides business owners with the knowledge, tools and self-awareness they need to find the funding that’s right for them.

“The survey we conducted last year focused on cataloging the needs of women business owners,” Sims says. “In 2018, we’ll emphasize education and real-world learning opportunities, and development of personal action plans for two critical issues identified in the survey: financial management and raising capital.”

In September 2017, Empowered PhXX, in partnership with NB|AZ, conducted a survey targeting Arizona women business owners. The survey sprang from “a variety of conversations and townhalls with stakeholders since 2015,” Sims says. “We often heard conflicting statements about who local women business owners were, as well as what their intentions and needs were. After investigating available data sources, we discovered that there was no data specifically about Arizona women business owners.”

With the assistance of Dr. Melissa Kovacs of data analysis firm First Eval, the survey was developed “to better understand our community and their needs,” Sims explains.

The creators of the survey were hoping for about 100 responses, but they received 310 completed surveys from women in a variety of industries.

“Combined with data from town hall meetings and in-depth interviews, these responses revealed that many assumptions about their businesses were misguided,” Sims points out.

The report that emerged from the survey, “A New Vision for Phoenix Entrepreneurship: Recommendations to Maximize the Economic Impact of Women-Owned Businesses,” identifies some significant myths attached to women business owners, including:

• Women only have “hobby” businesses. For more than two-thirds of respondents, their business was their principal source of personal income.

• Women don’t want to grow their businesses. More than 80 percent of respondents intend to grow their businesses in the coming year, with nearly 40 percent intending to grow rapidly.

• Women business owners need to be more confident to be successful. In fact, 84 percent of respondents were very or somewhat confident in their understanding of their business financials, and only 12 percent of respondents considered “confidence in my ability to manage my business” as one of their biggest challenges.

• There aren’t many “successful” women businesses here, with “success” being defined either by time in business or by annual revenues. Among the respondents, 51 percent have been in business for five years or more, and 6.25 percent are earning $1 million or more in annual revenues.

Based on the survey responses, the report also includes recommendations and calls-to-action for all community stakeholders, including policy makers, economic development leaders, lenders and investors, entrepreneurial support organizations and business owners.

These recommendations fall into two categories, Sims said: 1) shift perceptions about economic success and understand how diversity among business owners, types of businesses and stages of business growth contribute to it; and 2) focus entrepreneurial programs on effective business-building strategies and measurable outcomes.

The calls-to-action give specific ways that each stakeholder can effect change within their sphere of influence, so that everyone can take action in a way that leverages their strengths and existing resources, says Sims.

“If women were equally represented in entrepreneurship—50/50—an additional 91,000 jobs and $105 billion could be added to our local economy,” she continues. “Empowered PhXX’s mission is to improve every stakeholder’s ability to effectively support the growth of all women-owned organizations, to ensure we’re unleashing as much of that economic benefit as possible.”


Story: Debra Gelbart

Photo: Mark Lipczynski

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